Hear the Hauntingly Beautiful Call of the Common Loon

Can you identify this diver's yodel as it carries across northern lakes?

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote.

Does this call of the Common Loon bring to mind a summer visit to northern lakes with sunny blue skies? If so, you’ve probably heard loons in Alaska, Canada, northern Minnesota, or New England. This “yodel” call is given by a male on its breeding territory.

The call of the Common Loon during winter is quite different from the summer breeding call.

The prolonged, unmodulated tone sounds somewhat like a wolf’s howl, doesn’t it? We identify this as the “wail” call, reflecting its mournful qualities. Both males and females give this call, for example, when they want to reestablish contact after becoming separated.

Common Loons have another, more cheerful “tremolo” call. This undulating tone, tagged the “laughing call,” is given while flying.

When winter ends, Common Loons return to their breeding territories. Once back to those shining northern lakes, the males will again launch their yodel.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.



Calls of the Common Loons provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Yodel call recorded by D.C. Evans, Wail and Tremolo calls recorded by S.R. Pantle.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Written by Frances Wood 

© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org   August 2018  Narrator: Michael Stein